US$12bn . . . just what the doctor ordered

The Sunday Mail

The launch of the $12 billion mining industry road map by President Mnangagwa on Monday presents yet another striking move by his administration to transform the economy through unlocking the value of the country’s mineral wealth.

No doubt, this will pace up the process of Government efforts to achieve the upper middle income status with a per capita income of US$3 500 by 2030.  Under the mining strategic roadmap, the Government expects to earn US$4 billion from gold by 2023, US$3 billion from platinum while chrome, iron, steel diamonds and coal will contribute US$1 billion.

Earnings from lithium are expected to be US$500 million while other minerals will contribute US$1,5 billion. Zimbabwe is fortunate to be home to most high value mineral resources in the world, holding the second largest known platinum and chrome reserves in the world after South Africa.

The country also holds huge deposits of diamonds in the eastern parts of the country and other parts of the country where the Government is carrying out massive exploration.

Other known mineral resources include coal, nickel, methane gas and iron. In fact, Zimbabwe has at least 40 of the world’s known most valuable minerals.

Given the abundance of the country’s untapped or under tapped mineral wealth, mining holds huge potential of transforming the country to an upper middle class as envisaged by Government.

Indeed, we back the Government in its endeavours and are agreeable that the President’s mining vision is achievable. Already, the mining sector is the largest foreign currency earner, accounting for 70 percent of export receipts and has the potential to anchor the revival of an economy suffering from depressed productivity and foreign currency shortages among others.

In launching the roadmap, President Mnangagwa warned of humps along the journey towards attaining the US$12 billion target, but we are confident that collective effort, determination and commitment, will see the “Zimbabwe we all want” being built.

However, for these milestones to be attained, a lot needs to be done and among major requirements is dealing with the scourge of corruption in the allocation and repossession of mining claims, especially in the gold sector. There should be no sacred cows and we implore the Government to immediately implement the “Use it or Lose It” policy.

Without fear or favour — the poor, the rich, the powerful, as long as they are holding on to mining claims especially in the gold sector, should face the full wrath of the law. A few selfish individuals should not be allowed to hold the country to ransom and in the same stride impede the developmental aspirations and goals of an entire nation.

Just last year, the mining sector earned the country over $2,7 billion in export receipts. Given where the country is coming from, this looks like a huge figure, but we believe the country actually earned more than that. Due to the porosity of our boarders and weak systems in the mining industry, the country has not  accounted for all its mineral output.

There has been reports of massive smuggling of  minerals, processed or unprocessed as well as claims of under-declaration and  it is our strong conviction that this should stop as we embark on the journey to a US$12 billion mining sector.  Chances are that mining is already producing at least half the figure, but the minerals are being smuggled or export earnings are being heavily under-invoiced.

We implore the Government to raise the ante in ensuring that all minerals are beneficiated first before they are exported so that the country receives maximum benefits from its resources.

In this journey, Government should seriously vet and partner with genuine investors, not charlatans bent on milking the country’s natural resources, leaving Zimbabweans wallowing in poverty.

Yes, we may lack technologies to extract the minerals, but that does not justify exploitation. The partners should come on our terms as the President has always been advocating for.

The Ministry of Energy and Power Development suggests that as much as 2 000MW are needed in the next three years to ensure adequate power supplies to the nation and without this the vision might not be achieved.

The total investment needed would be around US$3 billion to ensure uninterrupted power supply.  The rail and road networks also need significant funding. The same goes for cargo loading and offloading facilities and it is our hope that more railway infrastructure will be constructed for easy movement of ore to smelters and milling plants.

Currently, there is no effective mineral exploration policy, which should be attached to the Mineral Development Policy. However, Government says the exploration policy will be out soon. This is critical to  allow funds to flow into exploration with adequate incentives to drive instant offshoots of junior miners.

We believe that the targeted production volumes are realistic and that all hands should be on deck to ensure this becomes a reality.